Senate Approves Congress’ Final OK on $40 Billion Aid to Ukraine – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate overwhelmingly approved a $40 billion infusion of military and economic aid to Ukraine and its allies on Thursday, as both parties rallied behind America’s latest and possibly not last financial salvo against Russia’s invasion .
The 86-11 vote gave the package final Congressional approval, three weeks after President Joe Biden requested a smaller $33 billion version and after a lone Republican opponent delayed Senate passage by a week. All Democrats and all but 11 Republicans — many of them supporters of former President Donald Trump’s isolationist agenda — backed the measure.
Biden’s quick signature was certain as Russia’s attack, which has devastated Ukraine’s armed forces and cities, enters a fourth month with no apparent end in sight. That means more casualties and destruction in Ukraine, which has relied heavily on US and Western assistance, particularly advanced weaponry, for its survival, and further calls for help may loom.
“Help is on the way, really significant help. Aid that could ensure Ukrainians are victorious,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., underscoring a goal of Ukraine and its allies that seemed almost unthinkable when Russia launched its brutal attack three months ago started.
The vote was a stark exception to the partisan divisions that have hampered work on other issues under Biden and promise to become only less bridgeable as November’s congressional control election draws near. That includes Republicans blocking Democrats from adding billions to the measure to fight the unrelenting pandemic and leaving their efforts to fight COVID-19 in limbo.
Last week the House of Representatives passed Ukraine Bill 368-57 with all the opposition Republicans. Though support in both chambers was unmistakably bipartisan, the GOP transitions were notable after Trump, still a powerful force in the party, complained that such sums should be used on domestic issues first.
Schumer called it “beyond concern” that Republicans were opposed to helping Ukraine. “It increasingly appears that MAGA Republicans are following the same Putin signpost that we used from former President Trump,” Schumer said, using the “Make America Great Again” acronym Democrats use to refer to these Republicans as extremists .
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a strong supporter of the measure, addressed concerns from his GOP peers. He said Ukraine’s defeat would endanger America’s European trading partners, increase US security costs there and encourage autocrats in China and elsewhere to seize territory in their regions.
“The most costly and painful thing America could possibly do in the long run is to end its investments in sovereignty, stability and deterrence before it’s too late,” McConnell said.
On Wednesday, Schumer said he was not confident this would be the final measure to help Ukraine. “They fight, they get killed, they fight and suffer. The least we can do is give them the weapons they need,” he said.
The law provides some $24 billion in arms, equipment and military funding for Ukraine, restoring Pentagon stockpiles of weapons sent to the region, and paying for US reinforcements sent there. The remainder includes economic aid to keep Zelenskyy’s government afloat, food programs for countries dependent on Ukraine’s diminished crop production, refugee aid, and funding for Kyiv to investigate Russian war crimes.
Congress approved a $13.6 billion initial measure in March. The total price tag of nearly $54 billion exceeds what the U.S. spent on all of its foreign and military aid in 2019, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has long held non-interventionist views, used procedural tactics last week to prevent Schumer and McConnell from getting the measure through the Senate at the time, citing Ukraine’s urgent needs of support.
In a personal critique rarely seen in the Senate, Schumer on Wednesday called Paul’s move “repugnant” and said delaying the inevitable passage would “strengthen Putin’s hand.” McConnell, who met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a surprise visit to Kyiv last Saturday, did not speak out in defense of his Kentucky compatriot.
In a brief interview, Paul responded that it would be “repugnant” to belittle “the democratic process” as enshrined in the Senate rules he uses.
That spending affected some pro-Trump Republicans in Congress on Wednesday.
“You know, the world is going to end if you don’t do something here,” said Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who said he would oppose the Ukrainian measure. “I’m more worried about the trust fund going bust,” which pays for Medicare, and another that pays for Social Security.
Braun said he has long pushed for bills that pay for themselves. When asked why the $40 billion saving outweighs stopping Russia in this case, he said, “Number one, it’s going to happen.”
Another conservative, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the measure, costly as it is, will protect US national security, saying, “If Putin wins, the consequences for America and American taxpayers will be in the hundreds.” of billions of dollars.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a moderate who has clashed with Trump, said in an interview that helping Ukraine on defense “is about as smart an investment as we could possibly make.” He added: “What does America First mean? That means we should look after America’s interests first. I totally agree.”
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